Which Team Communication App Should I Use?
While even conventional offices benefit from an online team communication app, it is essential for teams that don’t work together in the same physical location. Using email alone quickly gets confusing and disorganized for all involved. Luckily, the tech world has seen this problem and there are now plenty of options for team communication. Here are five popular apps for chat, calls, and more.
We’re a little biased on this one, because Allshore has been using Skype since the start. We love Skype because it’s easy to use, widely accessible, and free. However, Skype is not specifically for business communication, so it does have some limitations. To fully track tasks, to-do’s, and logged time, you’ll need to use it in conjunction with another software like Basecamp or JIRA.
What it does do well is organized communication between large groups of people. We use Skype daily to communicate with over 200 developers, clients, and managers. That’s a lot of chat in one application! Skype makes it easy to organize one-on-one chat, as well as groups, which can include over 100 users. You can host voice and video calls as well, but be warned that the system can get overloaded and start to have issues with more than about ten attendees. Screen sharing is another option for calls, but again can have connection issues with too many users. If you’re looking to have regular video calls with large groups, consider another software like GoToMeeting.
More of our teams are beginning to use Slack with their clients. The basic functions between Slack and Skype are pretty similar, despite Slack being aimed at project and business communication specifically. Slack includes “channels” which are essentially group chats, but be warned: if you don’t want a channel to be visible to all users on your team you must lock the channel. If a channel is not locked by the administrator, anyone on the team will be able to view it and the chat.
Unfortunately, group calls are only available on the paid version of Slack. You can have one-on-one calls for free, but this won’t be useful for remote teams that have group meetings. One advantage that Slack has over Skype is searches throughout chats. In Slack, you can search for a keyword across all your channels and messages.
If you’re already a Office 365 subscriber, Microsoft Teams is the way to go. It’s included automatically in the Business Essentials and Premium packages, and easily integrates with other Microsoft products like Word, Excel, and Outlook. While the company has applauded its uses for the education system and student collaboration, it really is aimed at business use for an all-in-one experience.
It has built-in chat and call functions, but also connects to everyone’s Outlook calendars with a specific tab for scheduling meetings. Users can also host webinars with up to 10,000 attendees, or use it with touch-screen devices for drawings, diagrams, and handwritten notes. A final perk of the software is the call function that acts like a normal phone. Users can call numbers outside of the software, and even receive voicemails. The downside to this product is, of course, the price. Many smaller businesses that would benefit from the wide range of uses may not have the resources for the number of subscriptions they’d need.
Hangouts isn’t made specifically for working team communication, but if everyone uses Gmail in your company, it can be a free and easy way to get started together. One perk of Google Hangouts is the ability to have multiple chat windows open side-by-side at one time. While many people wouldn’t need this function, a manager in a high multitasking role could find it useful.
The chat and call functions work similar to Skype and Slack where users can create group rooms or individual chats. While the software is free, it does have some limitations: only 100 users can be in a chat group, and calls and screen sharing only support up to ten attendees. Overall, Hangouts isn’t the most robust software for remote teams, but it is a good solution for small businesses without a budget for communication software.
A lesser-known software, Stride is specifically made for business communication and getting work done. While Stride has functions for group chats, calls, and screen sharing, it really shines in decision-making and task management. Users can create checkable tasks right in the chat, as well as view them in a highlights reel on the side. Everyone in the chat has the ability to see other’s tasks, so it’s easy to see who is working on what, and what they’ve completed. Team “decisions” can also be saved on the highlight reel, and include a special icon to denote them in chat. Lastly, you can specify what you’re working on in do-not-disturb mode, including muting chat that isn’t directly related to your task. The basic app is free for use, but has some limitations on file and screen sharing, while the standard version is $3 a month for one user.
No matter which team communication app you choose, you need one. Even for entirely in-house offices, communication software gives a space to save decisions, files, and information in a place where everyone can find it. Especially for teams that work different schedules, work from home, or work from different office locations, chat applications keep everyone in the know.
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